The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #56

Editor’s Note: In August 2015 MHB published, “The CIA and the Media: 50 Historical Facts The World Needs to Know.” The present series seeks to augment this initial article with several dozen additional facts and observations on the relationship between the US intelligence community, the mass media, and public opinion.


Irwin Knoll, Image Credit: Wisconsin Historical Society

Washington Post editorial page editor Bob Estabrook claims that one-time Post publisher Philip Graham “was in daily touch with people in the intelligence community and that he knew more about the Bay of Pigs, for example, than he would tell his own reporters,” writes Katharine Graham biographer Carol Felsenthal. Veteran journalist and former Progressive magazine editor Erwin Knoll recalls how Post editor Al Friendly “’had some CIA involvement. I know there was a pipeline to the CIA that provided occasional guidance on stories.’”

Knoll recollects the controversy that erupted in 1960 when a United States U-2 reconnaissance plane was shot down by the Soviets in 1960. “’I found myself riding in the elevator with Bob Estabrook, and I said to him, ‘That’s a hell of a story out of the Soviet Union today, isn’t it?’ And he said, ‘Oh yeah, we’ve known about those flights for several years, but we were asked not to say anything.’ Now that just astonished me, that the paper knew about things it was asked not to report on, and it complied with those wishes.’” Shortly thereafter, when a US pilot in the employ of Indonesian rebels was grounded, “the Post’s foreign editor warned Knoll to be careful about reporting on the pilot, who, he said, was CIA. Knoll thinks the Post ‘was definitely on the team as far as fighting to cold war was concerned.’”

Carol Felsenthal, Power, Privilege and The Post: The Katharine Graham Story, New York: Putnam, 1993, 372, 373.

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